Glenwood Springs, CO – As Ana (last name withheld) tried to explain to the police why her boyfriends’ chain was ripped, her broken finger served as a way to show the damage she suffered as a result of trying to defend herself from his attacks.
But despite her best efforts and those of her friends to explain her self-defense to local authorities, she was arrested and booked, leading to three months of horrifying ordeals which led to a dismissal of any criminal charges against her. Although innocent, she was still reported to ICE and placed into deportation proceedings; this despite protections under Colorado’s SB-90 which indicate that police should not report domestic violence victims until conviction, in order to give victims a chance to see justice.
SB-90 is the Colorado version of the notorious Arizona SB-1070 law, the majority of which just got struck down by the Supreme Court. While the “show me your papers” portion of SB-1070 in Arizona has yet to go into effect, this provision in Colorado negatively impacts community safety, because people are afraid to go to the cops and report crimes for fear of deportation. And because interactions with law enforcement tend to lead to stories like Ana’s, and Virginia’s before her, stories that spread like wildfire in immigrant communities, causing fear and insecurity.
ACLU document requests recently revealed that most law enforcement agencies in Colorado ignored the protections for domestic violence victims that were part of the SB-90 law, and applied the law too broadly. Most concerning for CIRC and the ACLU is that with the recent implementation of the federal Secure Communities (SCOMM) program across Colorado, even the minor protections that existed under SB-90 have now been erased. Sheriffs all over Colorado have brought up SCOMM as an excuse for ignoring SB-90 protections, showing the same inexcusable laxity as the rampaging bankers – if everyone ignores the law, it must be the right thing to do.
Denise Maes of the ACLU of Colorado adds: “The message from SCOMM is that interactions with law enforcement carry deportation risks. SCOMM deters immigrants—including those with lawful status—from reporting domestic violence, which diminishes law enforcement’s ability to adequately respond to these crimes. Because domestic violence has far reaching public safety implications, unreported crimes affect us all.”
SCOMM is an overbroad dragnet program, which allows law enforcement officers to bring people into jails and automatically check them against ICE databases. Colorado, with both SB-90 and Secure Communities in operation, as well as 287G agreements in some counties, has created one of the most extreme immigration enforcement structures in the nation. And yet there is little to show that this system has done anything other than create fear in immigrant communities.
“Ana’s case is just one example of how programs like SCOMM and ‘show me your papers’ laws like SB-90 can hurt public safety and re-victimize members of our community. She was just reaching out to law enforcement for protection, and in return she spent three months in jail and was placed into deportation proceedings. I just learned today that she was attacked again at the beginning of this year and did not report the attack because of her fear and mistrust of local police,” said Brendan Greene, Director of Campaigns and Membership at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, “Having abusers in the street because people are afraid to report crimes doesn’t make anyone safer.”
With both SCOMM and SB-90 operating in Colorado, victims are afraid to come forward and report crimes and local police, no matter how well meaning, can’t do anything to help. This system is unsustainable, damaging to Colorado, and needs to be reviewed and repealed before it damages more lives than it purports to help.